David Williams recently released his latest album, Tipping My Hat to Leonard, which is a mixture of folk, Americana, jazz, and blues music. Williams’ sound falls into the category of intelligent music, along with singer-songwriters like John Prine, Leonard Cohen, and Randy Newman.
The album features the talents of Williams (vocals, guitars, mandolin, violin, tenor banjo, five-string banjo), Ellie Brown (vocals, accordion), Monica Whittington (vocals), Duane Webster (bass), Wade Krauss (drums), Derek Banach (trumpet), Bill Pontarelli (clarinet), Enion Pelta-Tiller (violin), Janineray Mariani (accordion), Ray Contreras (percussion), and Mike Koertgen (harmonica).
Williams is multitalented – what used to be called a “renaissance man.” He worked as a cartoonist for the Chronicle of Higher Education and is an Emmy-winning songwriter. He is a children’s author with Random House and has published fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Williams is also one of the top gypsy jazz guitarists in the U.S.
Comprising 16 tracks, this release opens with the title track, a jazz ballad doubling as a tribute to Leonard Cohen. There’s a bluesy feel to the tune – a little melancholic, yet simultaneously reverent. Williams’ rough, rasping baritone infuses the song with an old-school aroma that’s delightful.
Personal favorites include “Little Tiny Foreign Car,” with its scrumptious mandolin and quixotic flavor, as well as “Baby Lost Her Kitty,” which features gypsy jazz embellished by a gorgeous clarinet and quavering accordion. “Aching for Love” conjures up memories of Louis Armstrong. It also ridicules online dating apps. The trumpet on this song oozes bluesy jazz that’s gooey with wicked sensuality.
The antiphonal play between Williams’ voice and the trumpet on “Irritation Polka” is astonishingly superb, as Williams relates all the ways his lover annoys him. “Guernica” summons a Johnny Cash-like sensibility that is tender, moving, and heartrending. This song is emotionally shattering, as it relates the turbulence of human passions depicted in Picasso’s famous painting.
Tipping My Hat to Leonard delivers a mesmerizing collection of songs that eschews the modern tendency for hip-hop-flavored pop music. The tunes are intensely intimate, authentic, and elegantly simple. Williams’ sensitive baritone provides the final finishing touch, securing the music’s captivating character.